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Applying for a joint degree at LSE

Uploaded by _mIndLes5 | May 12, 2008 | UCAS Personal Statements
_mIndLes5 asks:

Hello, congratulations for your website, it was great help during my A-levels, now i need you again!

i am applying for 2009 this September for the course Geography with Economics (or Economics with Geography in other universities). I have started thinking about my Personal Statement but i am not confident about making one about a joint course. I've seen a lot of samples about either choice (Geo or Eco) but i have my doubts on how to make one about both.

So any advice on my personal statement? Should it be 50-50 as far as the two subjects is concern? Do i speak separately of the two and then combine them just before my conclusion or do i combine them from the beginning?

P.S: My first choice for this course will be LSE so anything specific about applying to LSE would be appreciate

etutor answers:

First, you should remember that all these courses now have Entry Profiles, and it is therefore essential that you research and consider these, together with studying the literature published by the university departments to which you are applying. before you start on your draft. You will need to provide specific examples in your statement of the particular skills, qualities and attributes that are sought.

The most effective Personal Statements are likely to offer about three separate paragraphs, and with a little space left between them. The principal aim (and by a mile) is to get across your enthusiasm for selecting a combination of Economics and Geography. This means that most, probably two-thirds, of the statement will identify and reflect upon your academic interests. Specific examples are always far more convincing than very general statements. You should therefore start by outlining clearly the reasons for selecting the two subjects, since it is essential that you justify your choice of course. Explain exactly what it is that excites you about them, and make explicit reference to very specific examples of topics, issues, personal research, reading outside the A level specification, practical work, projects, coursework or fieldwork. Link your subject choice with examples of personal experiences that triggered or reinforced your interest, though do not fall into the familiar trap of beginning with ‘ever since I was a child’. You should make reference to at least one book that has influenced, inspired or excited them, though do not present the selectors with a long reading list of authors and titles.

In the case of your joint honours degree you will need to do this for each of the subjects, trying where possible to identify links between them. If you are not studying either of your proposed subjects at school (you don't say), explain clearly what has attracted you to it, indicate any research into it that you have done, and try to show how it might link with one or more of your current A level subjects. In each case you need to get across the idea that you are applying to university with a view to broadening or deepening your academic experience (and the skills that accompany it). It is often a good idea to explain how much you are looking forward to making a systematic study of a range of theories, interpretations and approaches that you recognise will often be in conflict, and that you are not looking for definitive answers to what are invariably complex questions.

Having said what attracts you to each of the individual subjects (and here it is a good idea to select contrasting topic areas), you need to make links between the two. So select a few areas where there is similar subject-matter, but where the approach is different. Obvious examples might include globalisation, poverty, climate change response, congestion, transport policy, housing policy and regional policy. Stress also what dimensions your study of one subject has added to your study of the other, in each of your selected cases. Any situation where they appear to reach different conclusions or have different policy priorities would be particularly helpful here. Stress also the limitations of each of the subjects, and thus in the process explain why one needs the other. As far as the LSE is concerned, there is a strong emphasis upon global issues, mathematics and systems analysis. So, if you are a mathematician, pick subject areas where quantitative analysis is critical. And be sure to appear excited about global issues, which points obviously to environmental concerns, but could also usefully incorporate topics such as the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, the role of the World Bank, diversification of the economy is less developed countries, and responses to food shortages.

You might go on to provide details of your academic achievements, such as scholarships, performance in AS level examinations, prizes awarded and any participation in external competitions. Avoid, however, references to ‘achievements’ before the age of about eleven (unless they are truly sensational), especially where you are unable to provide concrete evidence of any subsequent development or reinforcement. You might here also want to give some brief indication of your career aspirations, if you currently have any, and, where possible, establish links between your degree course choice and your career choice, though (except where there is a necessary link between degree subject choice and career) be careful not to put too much emphasis on any suggestion that your choice of courses is simply a means to a career end. Any relevant work experience should also be mentioned, placing the stress on how you benefited and what exactly you learned. Any activity that is enabling you to develop one or more of your skills is particularly worth mentioning in this context. Indeed, you should include in your statement any information that demonstrates that you have acquired (and are using) particular life and study skills, including any associated with information technology, teamwork, leadership, problem solving, communication, and service to the wider community. Wherever possible, indicate how your various skills might be honed and exploited in your course, and in university life in general.

In the final section of your statement you have an opportunity to describe your personal strengths, qualities and interests, and thus to impress the interviewers and selectors with your likely contribution to university and college life. Wherever the opportunity arises, make sure that your interests and achievements match those that are specified in the Entry Profile. As a general principle, you should always try to get across what you have learned from involvement in your chosen activities, making particular reference to the skills that they have enabled you to develop. It is therefore a good idea to explain how and why you have become more resourceful, or creative, or inquiring, or ambitious, or aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. It is also important here that you get over the fact that you have seized the more rewarding opportunities that have come your way, and that you are looking forward to developing at least some of them at university, or to taking up new ones. Include examples of activities and interests that demonstrate your leadership or teamwork capacity, your enterprise or originality, your sensitivity to the needs of others and contribution to a community, or your determination to stick at a task. Select three or four prominent (and preferably contrasting) activities which bring out these qualities; they certainly do not have to be confined to school-based activities, and might well encompass sporting, musical, artistic or dramatic talents and achievements. Voluntary or charity work, team membership, direction of a play, responsibilities at school, performing in concerts or organising a rock group, and fascinating or unusual hobbies are simply a few of the possibilities. You can therefore use references to your extra-curricular activities to highlight your motivation and your ability to rise to a challenge. Try to offer evidence that you have plenty of energy and stamina, that you can work independently, that you can manage time effectively, and that you have a clear sense of priorities. Resist the obvious temptation to include long lists of sporting teams you have played in (since the age of seven!), foreign countries you have visited and activities in which your participation is no better than marginal or occasional.

The most common errors made by applicants are to write too much and to devote a disproportionate amount of space to non-academic considerations. Lists should be avoided at all costs, as should any content that is misleading, fictitious or trivial. The appearance of the ‘dabbler’s charter’ is a route to suicide – in other words, sentences such as ‘I enjoy reading, travel, debating, sport, rock music, shopping, etc.’. Pretentious language and quotations from books or learned authorities do not impress either. Avoid generalizations, platitudes, repetition and extensive quotations. Do not exaggerate, or make a meal of a particular interest or activity, and do not come across as smug and conceited, since this will give the strong impression that you feel you have little more to learn. Do provide evidence that you are a social animal and will therefore fit in at university, but do this via the outlining of the activities in which you are involved; under no circumstances declare that ‘I like socialising’, since this has been known to create unfortunate impressions of heavy drinking and party-going!

Remember that the aim of the statement is to establish that you are an interesting individual in your own right, with your own priorities, values and agenda, and therefore someone who will clearly benefit both from the course and from university life; this should be summarised in a short, though decisive concluding sentence. Something along the following lines might encapsulate what you have been attempting to say – ‘I greatly look forward to the challenge of a demanding degree choice, and am confident that I have the academic ability, determination and personal qualities to make a success of it’.

I hope this is helpful. Do send me a first draft for comment.

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